Week 18: Oh How I love a Good Routine

Our sweet Kaya, lying so quietly and patiently under my chair.

I love when we get into a good rhythm. Our time flows smoothly. We have time for all the things. Everyone feels good about our day. A good routine just makes life easier, right? I don’t mean a schedule. I am not a strict scheduling kind of girl. I like margin. White space. Time to just be. I feel like when I try to schedule our day, I always over schedule, never include enough time, and most always set myself up for failure. I end up rushing our read aloud time and boys’ creative activities. I feel like I must plan every single minute. And we never have free time to just be. I feel like a drill sergeant. Schedules aren’t bad! Some people thrive on a schedule. I prefer a routine. If we don’t get started right at 8am, that’s ok. We can still do the same things…just a little later in the morning. If we need to shift to the afternoon, we still have our routine…just later in the day. If everyone gets up early….you see what I mean. We simply follow our daily routine regardless when we begin. And when we get into our groove….it’s magical.

We had such a great week. A couple bumps in the road but mostly just a lovely week of learning. We began a moon study in anticipation of the coming lunar eclipse. The boys and I each did watercolor painting of a full moon, we read various books, and watched a wonderful documentary about the Apollo 11 landing. If you’re interested in reading more, I shared about our moon week in a separate post.

We had a few frustrations on Tuesday so instead of giving up the day (still remembering the wise words of Bob Schultz), we headed to a local lake for a quick nature walk. I wanted to see if the waterfall at the lake had any water flowing. It did not disappoint. In all we only walked about a mile, but it was pretty cold and muddy. We took time to pick individual trees for the new year. While we are relatively new to tree study, I like that some of the trees at the lake are labeled. We will continue our tree study into this week after we finish up our moon study.

I have to say…the rest of the week was pretty uneventful. My husband had to borrow my truck on Wednesday so it was just a full day of school and relaxing for us. The same for Thursday. That routine, you guys! On Friday, I took my teenager for his first sports physical. That was quite the experience for him!

Thanks to routine and a slow calendar, we had an awesome (but maybe a little boring?) week. Truth be told….I hope we have many, many more!

Nature Study: The Moon

We have not kept up well with our nature studies this school year so one of my New Year’s Eve goals is to get back in the nature study habit. The boys love it. I love it. We need it! Getting back to nature study in January means not waiting for good (read: warm) weather. Ha! This was our first full week of nature study since the new year.

A FAVORITE nature study resource is Lynn Sheldon’s Exploring Nature with Children. It is simple and so easy to implement. We have been loosely following along for two years now. I also love using The Handbook of Nature as well. So much information in that book!

I also browsed our home library to find other books on the moon. I had so much fun with all these books and materials that it was tough putting them all away this week.

One of my favorite projects was using watercolor to create our own moons. The boys, surprisingly enough, loved it as well. We watched a quick YouTube tutorial and then I turned them loose on their own creations. I even created my own watercolor moon.

We read every day from the Handbook of Nature and several other books from our home library. We studied moon phases and learned about solar and lunar ecplises. The boys were shocked to learn that we always see the same side of the moon! We watched Journey to the Moon on Prime, a documentary about Apollo 11 and the first man on the moon, Neil Armstrong. It was fabulous and I definitely recommend it!

Of course, I think the boys’ most favorite activity was creating moon phases with Oreos! As we waited for the eclipse, I read to them The Moon Book by Gail Gibbons and we used the illustrations to create our own moon phases.

Lastly, we watched the lunar eclipse. We armed ourselves with coats and hats and binoculars and our phone cameras. We did not stand out in the cold the whole time. It was SO cold! We went out in 15 minutes intervals, taking turns with the binoculars. We also looked at many amazing photos online the next morning.

This was such a fun nature study week! It really set us up well for the rest of our school year. I’m looking forward to learning about trees this week and probably next. We went on a little nature walk last week to find trees for each of the boys, and now they are ready to learn all about the trees they picked out. I hope we can keep up the nature study. They enjoy being outdoors much more than I do but I’m having a lot more fun with it than I thought. See you next time!

Week 17: A Lesson in Perseverence (for Mom)

A couple of years ago, I made a wonderful discovery. Someone on Instagram suggested a book by Bob Schultz. It was called Boyhood & Beyond. I’m not one to love gender-specific books but this one grabbed me. I always thought it was funny how I would read a chapter aloud to the boys….and realize the lesson was meant for me. Ha!

Fast forward to January 7th of this year. A lesson from another of his books, Created for Work. As soon as I read the first sentence, I knew this was for me. And it was timely. Sometime in 2018, developed this bad habit of giving up when things don’t go the way I planned. Or our school day gets interrupted by life. Or the boys aren’t listening well. Or I just feel cranky. What made it worse was that I knew exactly what the problem was (me) but I didn’t care. Last year wasn’t great. A lot of struggles…physical and emotional. And my attitude about a lot of things (all the things) stunk. Preparing for 2019, I seriously wanted to tackle this bad habit. I knew my attitude was one reason our homeschool suffered so much last year, and I didn’t want that for my boys.

So Bob Schultz reminded me that I didn’t want to live like that. When things get tough, keep going. Don’t crawl back into bed and pull the covers over my head. Don’t give up. Don’t let little things turn into big things. No matter what…keep going.

And like I said, timely. Ha! Our Monday did not go as planned. As soon as our morning group work ended, the struggles started. Boys fussing at each other. Not listening to me. Not doing their schoolwork. And I just wanted to throw in the towel. I remembered what I had just read to the boys about perseverance, and how I admitted to them that this lesson was just as much for me as them. I didn’t want them to think I was a hypocrite.

After a frustrating morning and lunch time, we all had some frustration to burn off. It was such a beautiful day and sunshine always makes me feel better so we headed outside for some yard work. Cleaning neglected fence lines is some serious work, you guys! After a couple hours, we were worn out, relaxed, and ready to restart our day. We loaded up into the truck to mail my teenager’s testing packet back to Seton, made a stop at Sonic for Happy Hour….we needed some happy, and then we hit the ground running as soon as we got back home.

Big lesson for mom: (and I know I already knew this…you probably do too) Mom ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy. My attitude sets the tone for our home, and can make or break our day. When I chose to keep going even when things stink, they are encouraged to keep going. When I bring my A game, they do too. They are learning how to act and react to situations by watching how I act and react. Gosh, I know this! But I guess I let myself forget it last year. Anyway so Monday wasn’t great but it was DONE. And I carried Bob Schultz’s words with me throughout the rest of our week.

After such a bad start to the week, I felt we needed a warmer, cozier start to our Tuesday. I prepped as much as I could the night before and then surprised the boys with a Poetry Tea Time breakfast. They had French toast and hot chocolate. We lit candles, and took turns reading winter poetry to each other. It was the BEST. They loved it, I loved it….and it set us up for a great day. Bonus: my dyslexic kiddo who never wants to read anything in front of anyone, including his brothers, read a poem to us!! It was such a sweet moment. His brothers listened quietly while he took his time to sound out difficult words and sometimes get Mom’s help. And then he re-read each line in a funny voice! So fun! We were all proud of him!

Wednesday was more of the same. Sweet, cozy school day. We did all the things, worked together, and enjoyed our day.

And again on Thursday, except I had a little surprise up my sleeve. The boys’ Nana gave them each a Chuck E Cheese gift card for Christmas. We had planned to go that Friday but I decided we earned an early treat. After completing most of our schoolwork that morning, we jumped in the truck and headed to town for some CEC fun.

Friday night brought another AH-mazing surprise. My dyslexic kiddo. He’s pretty stinking awesome! We didn’t get time during the day to complete his reading work so we tackled it after dinner. He sat and read all of his fluency words to me. I posted about it on Instagram. You’re welcome to pop over there and read about it.

We ended the week in a much better place than we started it. So thankful for a great week, authors who encourage (even those not in their intended audience), and so much grace. I hope your week is great….and if it isn’t, I hope you find the courage to persevere.

What We Are Reading-Jan 2019

Disclosure: The links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will make a small commission if you click through and make a purchase. I would never recommend a book that I haven’t read myself or approved for my boys.

You guys! We are reading SO many good books this month. Some are continued from last month, others are new for us, and a few are just the next in the series we’re currently reading. The boys are begging for me to keep reading during our read aloud times and Kaleb keep asking if he has to stop reading his current individual read. That’s good news, right?

So let’s start with our current read alouds. I read a LOT of our books during our group work in the morning. We also have an afternoon read aloud and a bedtime read aloud. Some go along with our history or science or Language Arts and others are just books that I want to read aloud to them. I love reading aloud and the boys enjoy it, too. Even Dad gets invested in our bedtime read alouds!

Our current group work read alouds:

Little Pilgrim’s Progress. We’ve really drawn this one out for too long. Ha! It has super short chapters and we read 1-4 chapters a week. We put it away sometimes and pick up back up other times. We are so close to being finished with it….and they are read to be done. We have absolutely enjoyed it but like I said, seems like we’ve been reading it forever (because we kinda have).

The Chronicles of Narnia! I am excited to be reading this aloud with the boys! I’ve never read them myself so it’s been fun for all of us. It took a bit to get the boys interested. We just finished The Magician’s Nephew and they are HOOKED! I’m so glad because I am too! We started it last fall, just reading a chapter or two a week. It quickly became a fave so we upped to a chapter every school day. We set it aside during December though to pick up some Christmas books (which we’re still reading!). They were super happy to get back to Narnia this month. We are now in the second book in the series: The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe.

Tales of Egypt. I have to admit…it’s a tough one to read. I keep having to Google pronounciations! Ha! And it definitely isn’t a favorite among any of us. It’s going along well with our ancient history, though. We are about 1/3 of the way through….and everyone will be happy when we finish it. I have a couple more Ancient Egypt books that I would love to read but I’m not sure we’ll get to them at this point. And that’s fine too. I have MANY Ancient Rome and Greece books that look great!

The Cat of Bubastes: A Tale of Ancient Egypt. Another history read aloud but we are all listening to this one on Audible. My voice can’t handle all of the reading we do as a group in the morning. Ha! I appreciate a little break every now and then.

The Cricket in Times Square. We are reading this in conjunction with our Bravewriter language arts program. We haven’t made it a priority so it’s been slow going. That will change in 2019. We are stepping up our commitment to Bravewriter. I love the program and I know my boys will benefit from it so it needs to be a priority. We are only a few chapters into this book.

Our current afternoon read aloud is The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place book 1: The Mysterious Howling. I have had the first two books in this series for about a year now, but we just started reading it this week. We’re only a few chapters in but I think the boys will love it. They say they need to reserve opinions until they get a few more chapters in. Ha!

Our current bedtime read aloud is The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street. It was our last Christmas read that we just haven’t finished yet. We will easily finish this month and, if they enjoy it, we’ll probably read another book about the Vanderbeekers. I think there are three total?

My boys’ current individual reads:

Kaleb started this school year with the Harry Potter books. They weren’t holding his attention so he switched to a different book after the new year. He is currently reading Hatchet. He LOVES it and asks if he can keep reading after our individual reading time is over. YAY! Of course, it’s right up his alley. He loves books on wilderness survival.

Gabriel will finish up Winter War from the Prince Warriors series by Priscilla Shirer. He has loved this series! He started it when it first came out last year but put it away to read The Outsiders, a book his uncle sent to him that he LOVED so much he’s now re-reading it in his own time. His new individual read is The Sword of Summer from the Magnus Chase series. I hope he loves this series! I want to read it myself!

Drake and Joshua listen to books on Audible. Drake is dyslexic and struggles to read for pleasure. He is doing so much better but still likes to listen to books being read to him. Joshua, of course, is just beginning to read so Audible just makes it easier for everyone. They have been listening to Fifty Famous Stories Retold by James Baldwin. They are just about finished so I think they will go to Myths that Every Child Should Know.

Drake and I are reading a series he found at a local library sale called The Three Investigators. I don’t know how many are in the series but he found about 10 or so for only 25 cents each. It was the first time he has been interested in any kind of book so I definitely snatched up every one of the books in the series. We are currently reading The Secret of Terror Castle. We take turns reading so he doesn’t feel overwhelmed but still get the feeling of reading on his own. It’s a BIG confidence builder!

Finally, I am always reading some kind of fantasy fiction on Kindle but nothing super spectacular lately. One of my goals for the year is to read more non-fiction. I’m such a book hopper when it comes to non-fiction…reading a chapter or two in one book before jumping over to read a couple chapters in another. I am working through several but my main focus is on Girl, Wash Your Face this week. If I finish that one before the end of the month, I’ll finish Everybody Always by Bob Goff. I’ll share a couple others next month.

See? So. Many. Good. Books! It’s going to be a great reading month. I love it! My read aloud list is always growing and growing…my Amazon book wish lists are insane! Ha! I wish I could read through them faster but I definitely want to enjoy our current reads. I would love to know what you and your family have been reading lately!

Week 16: Back 2 School…after the holidays

That first week back is always a doozy, you know?! To kind of help us get back into the swing of things after a long Christmas break, I decided to jump right back in the day after New Years Day. It was also the day Dad went back to work and only three days left in the week so a nice little transition for us. I tried to keep it super cozy and low key, although Drake’s math stress is pretty evident in this picture. He was not enjoying it!

We got back to our usual read aloud, The Magician’s Nephew. We only have a couple chapters left and boys have absolutely LOVED this book! I’ve never read The Chronicles of Narnia before so I’m loving it as well. We aren’t quite finished with our Christmas read aloud but we’ll finish that one up in the evenings.

A new learning adventure for me is the Instant Pot that I received from a friend for Christmas. It’s a little intimidating! I’ve had it since about the middle of December but finally decided this would be the week I would use it….at least once! I did the water test and that wasn’t so bad but I really just wanted to be done with it and fix dinner a different way. The hubs talked me into going ahead with some chicken. Seemed like an easy one to do. We just put four chicken breasts in the pot and topped with a Ranch Fiesta seasoning packet. The suggested time was a little misleading since it only shows the actual cooking time. I wasn’t expecting to wait an additional 10 minutes for it to build pressure. Makes sense…I just wasn’t expecting it. We all enjoyed the chicken though even the boy who usually refuses to eat chicken. I tried hard boiling eggs, using the 5-5-5 method. That was definitely easy peasy. I’m not sure how I feel about the Instant Pot just yet but I will definitely use it again soon….if for nothing more than to boil more eggs. Ha!

We managed to spend Monday afternoon to Friday morning at home. The boys and I literally went nowhere! Actually I think a boy snuck out with Dad to run some errands one evening. But I stayed in pjs all week long! I spent the time we weren’t doing school work putting away Christmas decor and getting the house back in order. And I read a lot. Two books down in 2019 already! So great. I’ll admit….it was a little tough, getting ready on Friday to pick up groceries. Ha! After I declared all the Christmas decor put away for the year, I walked out of my house on Friday and on to the Christmas welcome mat. What! I knew I’d end up overlooking something. Thankfully, the hubs hasn’t put the storage tubs in the attic yet.

My teenager spent his Saturday afternoon with his oldest brother tackling a standardized test. It isn’t required of homeschoolers in our state unless you want to play public school sports. He was a little nervous about it but after I glanced through the material, I had to assure him that he will do just fine. He doesn’t have anything to worry about. I just hope we get the results back SOON since public school here starts back on Monday. It has been a little bit of a rushed experience but I believe he will enjoy himself as soon as we get through all of the hoop jumping.

Our first week back to school wasn’t super structured but it was definitely a good one! Productive. Cozy. Laid back. I want continue the cozy school theme. Hot cocoa, warm blankets, and a lot of learning. A lot of reading! Maybe I can find some fun documentaries on history or something for us to watch. I want to move forward in our schoolwork but I still want to keep that super relaxed feeling from our break going. I know a lot of homeschoolers AND public schoolers starting back this Monday. I wish you the best first week back from break possible! I hope you get to carry that cozy, relaxed break feeling into your school week.

2019 New Year Homeschool Goals

Happy New Year! I hope you all had a fantastic holiday season! We had so much fun during our holiday break. We baked so many cookies, attended some awesome Christmas parties, and had fun with Dad who took off the week of Christmas. So many great Christmas memories!

I have to admit, though…I’m kind of happy to see 2018 go far, far away. Between three broken bones, an emergency surgery, a sprain, a brown recluse bite, (and that was just between two of us!) in addition to so.many.family.problems, it was a rough one.

There were some super great highlights though: a short but sweet girls only trip to the beach, a couple months of watching the cutest grand toddlers and grandbaby, a few good field trips, plenty of baseball and soccer, fun concerts, many game nights with friends and family, and of course our awesome holiday season. The good completely outweighed the bad….when I take the time to actually think about it.

One area in 2018 where I feel I failed more often than not was our homeschool. We never got off to a good start this school year. Too many commitments. Too many outside activities. Too many HUGE expectations on my part. And not near enough planning. We had fun and we’ve learned a lot, but we could have (should have) done so much more. We already started back this week after a long holiday break. However, I’m still working on a plan for finishing out this school year. So here is my short but hopefully effective goals list for 2019:

  1. No more outside commitments. We already have commitments with church, one of our homeschool co-ops as well as Little League sports, and of course family commitments which I wouldn’t change for the world. And we have one BIG new commitment beginning this semester: Kaleb will be joining a local high school’s baseball team. He will be required to attend 7th period every school day as well as the after school practice and games. He’s actually attending our neighboring school district as ours doesn’t have a baseball team so I will be responsible for driving him to and from practice each day. Thankfully, a neighbor’s son who is also homeschooling attends the same hour as Kaleb so we will be able to car pool a little. So the goal is to not add any additional commitments. Along with that, I am only going to teach one class during co-op. Well…the same class x 3. I will be teaching all three hours BUT it will basically be the same subject.
  2. Monthly, weekly, daily routines. We did SO well with this…until about Thanksgiving. Then the holiday madness kicked in and we let it all fall away. We completed more of our schoolwork AND household chores once we got on a good routine though. It just made life so much easier to know exactly what was coming up next. Even on days when we started late, we still knew exactly what we needed to do and got it done. So. Much. Productivity. I want to get back to this and even dig in a little deeper. It just works that well for us.
  3. Weekly prep. This is a must. And I have failed miserably at it this school year. I usually do a big once a year planning weekend during the summer where I get every subject planned out, all the printables printed, all the supplies bought and organized, all the things done so that I could just grab the file of our current week…and get to work. I didn’t do any of that. I wasn’t prepared properly when we started school….and I’ve been playing catch up ever since. The only thing left for me to do this late in the game is to use the weekend to fully prep for the upcoming week. Maybe I can do some catch up in the next month or so while we have some downtime from most of our outside activities, but really I just need to commit to that weekly prep. Our homeschool would run so much smoother.
  4. Blog and YouTube. I’ll be honest: we get more done when I’m held accountable. And blogging about our weeks does that for me. Knowing that I will be publicly recording our homeschool is so motivating. And let’s be honest….my attempts at blogging the last few years have been pitiful. I love looking back on those years when I regularly blogged about our homeschool. I wish I had a better record of the last few. I can do better. And I will. I also want to get back to posting YouTube videos. I enjoy watching and reading about other homeschools and the community is such a blessing to a mama who spends a lot of her time at home. I decided last month that we would give YouTube a retry so I deleted all the videos I had previously posted in preparation….I just couldn’t look at them. Ha! The boys and I will start over some time this month. Slowly but surely! I’m committing for sure to weekly blog posts and possible bi-weekly YouTube videos. We’ll see how it goes. I have a teenager who would LOVE to edit my videos for me so that is a HUGE bonus.
  5. Be more intentional. This really is the sum of the four previous goals but I feel it needs its own space. I have to see it to believe it. Out of sight, out of mind. Or something like that. More intentional with my time, my boys’ time, our family time, our outside commitments. All of it really. Make it count. You know when you fix an amazing dinner and have leftovers? You put them in the fridge with the intention of having all that yummy for lunch the next day. Then you forget. And it sits there in the fridge. You might see it later and think you’ll have it the next day. No worries! Right? But then you forget again. And eventually you have to throw the whole thing….container and all…into the trash because it’s become a science experiment gone wrong. That’s kind of how I feel the first half of our school year turned out. I kept forgetting/putting off the good stuff. The things that make our homeschool fun. And eventually we got sucked into a super busy (but so fun) holiday season. None of the good stuff I wanted to do actually got done. I think the biggest reason for that was my lack of intention. I just didn’t make time for those things to happen. I spent a lot of the last few months thinking we would eventually get to it but we never did. So I am going to work on being more intentional. Use my time wisely by making sure I don’t over-commit our family, reestablishing those routines that work so well for us, planning ahead with good solid prep time on the weekends, and holding myself accountable through this blog and social media.

I fully believe that, if I stick to these goals, we will accomplish so much more in our homeschool and finish out the year with a BANG! And part of making that happen is accountability so thank you, WWW, for holding me accountable! Ha! I look forward to the next few months and learning alongside my boys. It’s a new year. A new start. And I’m more excited about this last part of our school year than I was when we started it. Better late than never, I guess. Hope you all are off to a great start on your new year. If you’ve made some new homeschool goals for 2019, I would love to read about them. Happy 2019!!